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Northern Italy experts--slow travel & some active pursuits in 2nd 1/2 May

Northern Italy experts--slow travel & some active pursuits in 2nd 1/2 May

Apr 7th, 2013, 11:10 AM
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Northern Italy experts--slow travel & some active pursuits in 2nd 1/2 May

One hour ago I bought round trip tickets into Milan for a 3 week trip mid May into early June. (Yes, I am not an early planner like so many of you.) We are pretty completely open except for the fact we know we want to spend a week on a bicycle trip and the rest of the time broken up between 2 or 3 different bases in apartments or small houses (like a gite in France). We like to have a place where we can do some cooking or re-heating of prepared foods from local delis and where there is a nice place to sit outside. For these bases I think we'd probably prefer some place in or on the outskirts of a charming small town rather than being stuck out in the middle of nowhere in an agritourismo place. But, maybe I am interpreting the idea of an agritourismo incorrectly.

We plan to spend one week doing a self-guided bicycle trip in the Veneto area, or Bolzano to Venice or Verona area, or the Dolomites to Lake Garda, or Innsbruck to Bolzano or Lake Garda, or something along these lines. There are lot of different options to choose among from different tour companies. So, that will need to be a first decision. Any comments welcomed on the suitability of various types of locales I've mentioned are welcome. We are in our 60s and have done cycling trips before, the kind of trips that are more leisurely with time to stop to smell the flowers rather than being an endurance contest. All of these trips I am looking into are described at being more leisurely and on relatively flat routes. And, are there any of these areas that would be less likely to have rain at this time of year?

Then, we want to find a couple places as bases where we could just enjoy the ambience, go to interesting local markets, do some day trips, do some half day hiking perhaps, find some interesting cafes or delis etc. Have any suggestions as to possible places for bases or places to stay? And, from past experience on this forum when I was a frequent poster several years ago, I know we travel on a lower budget than many of you. We've done tons of European (and other trips) where we have done VRBO-type rentals and been just fine on our own in relatively modestly priced accommodation.

Other than the bicycling part of the trip, we'll most likely have a rental car unless it would be a place where that wouldn't be necessary. We frequently choose to stay in areas that aren't in the top ten tourist destinations because we are just as happy (and sometimes more happy) off the beaten path. We don't want to run around all day every day sightseeing and ticking places off a list, and super touristy doesn't call to us. We tend to prefer spending quality time in a couple places rather than running ourselves ragged trying to see everything.

We've never been to this part of Italy although we did spent 5 nights in Venice over New Year's a couple years ago. I've been to Florence, Ravenna etc. 40 years ago, but they seem a bit distant from the area we plan to concentrate on. We are not big fans of large cities, and I haven't even had a chance to investigate what Milan has to offer, but we nearly always spend our last night in the city we are flying out of just so we don't run into problems making our return flight.

Thoughts? Suggestions? The lakes? The Dolomites (or too early in the season)? Coastal Genoa area? Places I might not even have though of in the brief time I have had to think about this? Any assistance is more than welcomed. Thanks much.
julies is offline  
Apr 7th, 2013, 11:15 AM
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I assume your tickets are for Malpensa? It's about an hour transport time from Milan so if you have an early return flight you might want to spend the last night near the airport (especially if you have a car to return).
kybourbon is offline  
Apr 7th, 2013, 09:38 PM
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Thanks. It is helpful to know that the airport is an hour out, and we'll take that into account.

Anyone else with any ideas for me?
julies is offline  
Apr 8th, 2013, 03:12 AM
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You will probably get good answers if you come with short and comprehensive questions.
neckervd is offline  
Apr 8th, 2013, 06:22 AM
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Thanks. I guess I will try reposting first with questions about the various places for bike trips and then after I have made that decision with questions for various bases.
julies is offline  
Apr 8th, 2013, 08:08 AM
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I visited the vicinity of Milan last year at this time, and we had rain in the Piedmont and mostly sun on the riviera. Not that you can ever really predict! I think once you get the bike portion sorted, you will be better able to focus on what you want for the rest. I suspect it might be a tad too early for the mountains.
yorkshire is offline  
Apr 8th, 2013, 11:53 AM
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Have you considered NW Italy - Piedmont, Aosta and Liguria? If you have 3 weeks you could easily soak up a week in Piedmont fulfilling all your objectives plus maybe a few days in Aosta and/or Liguria, even Cinque Terre.
Sampaguita is offline  
Apr 8th, 2013, 02:10 PM
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Thanks for your responses. One thing I am trying to get information on is weather/rain patterns for this time of year. It will help me with the cycling part of the trip and also help me to determine if there are any regions I should eliminate just because the weather might put a damper on things. My library system has a book called something like Where to Go When in Italy. It supposedly discusses optimal times (and really bad times) to visit certain locales. I've reserved it, and it should be in my hands in a few days.
julies is offline  
Apr 8th, 2013, 08:11 PM
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I've visited northern Italy (with my bike) in May every year since 2005, and to be honest, I haven't noticed any particular area to be more rainy than others. Some years (2007, 2010) it just seems to rain everywhere in May, and other years the weather is mostly sunny. Where the geographical differences come into play is with snow. In the Dolomites, May precipitation can be sleet or snow rather than rain.

In general, May and even early June are off-season in the Dolomites. The roads are generally all open (and the biking is awesome if you like climbing), but most lifts aren't running, some hiking trails are still at least partially covered in snow, and many hotels are closed until mid-June. If you want to visit the spectacular Dolomites, especially if you want to do some hiking, I would recommend doing so at the end of your trip.

Will you have your bikes with you for the entire trip, or are you just renting bikes for the one week?

Without knowing the specifics of the bike trips you're looking at, I'll just make some general comments. Personally, although I love the lakes, I do not enjoy cycling on the roads immediately around the major lakes. There's just too much car traffic. Cycling near the lakes can be great, but not on the lakeside roads themselves. For my money, the Veneto region is a biker's paradise. The (flat) bike trail from Bolzano to Trento is also very nice.

The three-week Giro d'Italia bike race will be traveling through northern Italy from May 14 until the race finish in Brescia on May 26. You might want to work a viewing of one of the Giro stages into your trip (I highly recommend it), and you should also be aware of where the race is passing because there will be road closures for each stage. This English-language website lists the Giro stages and shows maps of each stage:

susoir is offline  
Apr 8th, 2013, 09:04 PM
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This is exactly the type of information I was hoping to get here, and it is extremely helpful. Hearing what you have to say, the Dolomites are out because we'll want nicer weather on our trip. And, I have also been reading elsewhere that cycling the lakes can be pretty hairy, so I think I am going to eliminate those trips that include a day or two by the lakes. And, thanks for the tip about the Giro; we might also try to fit this in for a day of watching.

I'm thinking the Veneto bike trip possibilities are sounding quite good for us because as we are getting older I find hills less and less attractive. We'll be signing on for a self-guided tour with an organizer that provides bikes and luggage transfer. Here, in no specific order, are a couple of different tours we are considering, and if you know the areas I'd appreciate some comments. We are looking for nice cycling with nice scenery and some interesting places to stop and visit and some charming small towns.

1st DAY Bolzano.

2nd DAY Bolzano-Trento (65/70 km).

3rd DAY Trento-Peschiera/Desenzano (50 km+boat). (But, looking at this I see it is lakeside again here.)

4th DAY Peschiera/Desenzano-Verona (35/60 km).

5th DAY Verona-Vicenza (75/40 km). The ones who consider this stage too long can take a train from several railway stations.

6th DAY Vicenza-Padova (50 km).

7th DAY Padova-Mestre/Venice (40 km).

8th DAY Mestre/Venice.

OR this one....

Day 1: Arrive in Vicenza

Day 2: Vicenza-Bassano del Grappa – 40 km (or 25 miles)

Day 3: Bassano del Grappa – Treviso - 62 km (39 miles)

Day 4: Treviso – Mestre – 38 km (or 24 miles)

Day 5: Mestre/Venice – Chioggia – 33 km (or 20 miles)

Day 6: Chioggia – Padua (Padova) - 60 km (or 37 miles)

Day 7: Padova – Vicenza - 48 km (or 30 miles)

OR this one.......

1st DAY Bolzano.

2nd DAY Bolzano-Trento (65/70 km).

3rd DAY Trento-Bassano del Grappa (35 km by train+60 km).
To shorten today’s stretch a little bit you will travel by train to Borgo Valsugana.

4th DAY Bassano-Vicenza (40 km).

5th DAY Vicenza-Padova (50 km).

6th DAY Padova-Chioggia (60 km).

7th DAY Chioggia-Mestre (35 km).

I've also found a couple trips that go over from the Veneto into Slovenia and Croatia and another that drops down from Austria into the Veneto.

Any and all thoughts from anyone on ideas for my trip are more than welcome. I appreciate it a lot.
julies is offline  
Apr 9th, 2013, 01:17 AM
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Julies, there are a couple of bike tours in your area on this website

For the decision you have to take is do you want hills or not. If not then the PO valley is the place for you, there are loads of empty, quiet roads as well as bike paths going every which way, in fact the tricky bit is deciding where to.

Do take care getting out of Mestre to Padova, the tricky bit is around Mestre station, once you have cracked that the route is lovely, though the signage is poor so get a map (from Padova TI)
bilboburgler is offline  
Apr 9th, 2013, 05:34 AM
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>>>The ones who consider this stage too long can take a train from several railway stations.<<<

Not all trains allow bicycles.

kybourbon is offline  
Apr 9th, 2013, 08:42 AM
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Of the three bike trips you've listed, I would probably pick the third one. I really like Bolzano, Trento, and Bassano del Grappa, and you'll get a real variety of cities on this route, since Bolzano has a very Austrian feel more typical of the Alto Adige region than the Veneto. Also, while riding on the valley trail between Bolzano and Trento, you'll see more mountainous scenery than you would on the second route, without having to actually do any climbing. The ride along the Brenta river from Borgo Valsugana to Bassano will also be beautiful.

After you pick up your rental car in Venice, you might want to consider heading to the Friuli Venezia Giulia region for part of your trip. This area is beautiful, affordable, and doesn't get as much tourist traffic as some other parts of Italy. There are wonderful places to visit like Udine, Cividale del Friuli, and Aquileia.

In the charming village of Cividale, don't miss the eighth century masterpieces (stuccoes, a baptistry, and an altar) in the Tempietto Longobardo and the Museo Cristiano. Aquileia has some Roman ruins, and the huge Palaeo-Christian mosiac floor in the basilica, rediscovered in 1909 after being covered by another floor for 900 years, is one of the most spectacular sights I've seen in Italy.
susoir is offline  
Apr 9th, 2013, 06:50 PM
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You are all so immensely helpful! I've looked at Bilbo's and kybourbon's links and will further investigate.

Susoir, since you've done biking in all of these areas in may, I consider you the expert and will probably follow your advice as to which trip is preferable. You have already helped me to narrow down my choices of bike trips and eliminate some. But, I still need to do lots more investigating before I make any final decisions.
Friuli Venezia Guilia is definitely worth looking further into because you hit on exactly the types of places we prefer--affordable, not heavily touristed and attractive.

Thanks much to all of you!
julies is offline  
Apr 9th, 2013, 08:13 PM
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I'm pretty sure bilboburgler has done multiple biking trips also as you can see from his biking trip reports.

kybourbon is offline  
Apr 10th, 2013, 01:30 AM
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It takes a crank to turn a wheel
bilboburgler is offline  
Apr 10th, 2013, 09:32 AM
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Please don't think I was slighting you and your advice about the Po; it sounds lovely. But, we are coming from the US and won't have bikes of our own, so we need to work with an outfitter that has some pre-planned trips and routes that include bikes. That's why I listed those different possible itineraries. Are you the one (can't remember whose reports I was reading) who has written about biking Apulia? That is on our list for a future trip.
julies is offline  
Apr 10th, 2013, 10:07 AM
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We were in the Veneto last May - the last two weeks, in fact -
and the weather was variable. It was chilly and pouring on a
few of the days and mixed sun/clouds on others.

The roads between towns in the area are clogged with cars and
transport trucks so it is necessary to add travel time; for
instance, we headed out to see the start of a Giro leg with
plenty of time to spare but the traffic was crawling and we
got to the start line just as the bunting was being removed!

Our days of hauling bikes and renting Kangoos are over but
well I remember...and it was fun to see the tour go barrelling
through a tiny town at breakneck speed with helicopters
hovering overhead.
immimi is offline  
Apr 10th, 2013, 10:51 AM
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julies, no worries, guilty on the puglia front.

Bike hire; stick "noleggio di biciclette" into google maps when showing the area of your choice gives you loads of choices.

"it takes torque to start a revolution"
bilboburgler is offline  

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